Monday, May 17, 2010

Me? An Immigrant?

It has been over two years since I arrived in the US and I still find it difficult to accept the concept of me as an immigrant.

We are not immigrants. They are those other people .. the ones who come from outside to take our jobs and wreck our way of life. Every time I think back to political discussions of immigration it was always portrayed as a problem. The statistics were about the numbers incoming, never about those leaving. Immigrants were always a threat and never an opportunity.

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely recognize and support the right of any country to control immigration. There are two main issues, the first is budgetary, there is an administrative overhead and an increased demand on services caused by immigration. The second is political, it is only natural that large numbers of newcomers with different culture will make the native population feel uneasy. One of the most sensitive treatments of this is depicted in Tony Harrison's poem V.

House after house FOR SALE where we'd played cricket
with white roses cut from flour-sacks on our caps,
with stumps chalked on the coal-grate for our wicket,
and every one bought now by 'coloured chaps',

dad's most liberal label as he felt
squeezed by the unfamiliar, and fear
of foreign food and faces, when he smelt
curry in the shop where he'd bought beer.

I have always supported immigration. At a simple biological level it renews the gene pool but more than that it brings in different outlooks, traditions and skills. It offers all of us the chance to learn from each other and to fuse disparate components into a single united whole. I understand why some people fear immigrants but believe they are wrong. Anything new will always bring some level of disruption but we should not fear chaos. The shaking up of established order is not necessarily negative. It can prevent stagnation and offer opportunity for renewal. Once viewed as wholly destructive, scientists are increasingly realizing that phenomena such as floods and forest fires are often a natural mechanism to offer diversity and fresh growth ... it may arise from destruction but the outcome can be very desirable. We all like order and routine and so when something new appears it is natural to be wary if it threatens change to our existing way of life. We should not however fear the new but be prepared to embrace it. The joy of life is that it is constantly in a state of change.

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